Domotex USA: Deutsch Messe holds its U.S. debut in Atlanta, Georgia - Apr 2019

By Darius Helm and Beth Miller

The inaugural Domotex USA show was held at Atlanta’s downtown convention center from February 28 to March 2, and it included the show itself-over 280 exhibitors across 90,000 square feet of show space in Hall D for the full three days-along with an education program, Insider Talks at a stage at the center of the show floor and mill tours.

The tours, held the day before the official opening of the show, sold out quickly and were a big hit. The daylong excursion to the Georgia facilities included visits to Shaw’s resilient plant in Ringgold; The Dixie Group’s residential operations in Dalton; Engineered Floors’ Sam plant, also in Dalton; and Beauflor USA’s sheet vinyl facility in White. According to Donna Busse, Domotex USA’s show manager, “We’re looking forward to using this year as a pilot program and a blueprint for expanded offerings in the future.”

Domotex USA hopes to build on the well-established Domotex brand, which includes the biggest flooring expos in Europe and Asia. The original show, launched in 1989, takes place in Hannover, Germany in January, with attendance going as high as 45,000 visitors and over 1,600 exhibitors. Domotex Asia/Chinafloor dates back to 1999 and gets as many as 60,000 attendees and over 1,400 exhibitors; this year’s edition concluded last month. Domotex Turkey was originally launched in 2006 in Dubai as Domotex Middle East, then moved to Istanbul, Turkey in 2012. The show’s attendance goes up to about 12,000 with about 200 exhibitors.

At the Domotex debut in Atlanta, traffic was steady but somewhat light, with 5,130 registered attendees-70% from the eastern U.S. And of the 282 exhibitors, 123 came from North America and 159 came from the rest of the world, mostly Europe and Asia. Although 44% of the exhibitors were North American, they accounted for 57% of the show’s exhibit space.

Many of the flooring producers were exhibiting in the U.S. for the first time explicitly because it was a Domotex show, and they regularly exhibit at other Domotex shows.

In fact, what was most notable about the show was the make-up of the exhibitors. Yes, big U.S. players were there-like Shaw’s Anderson-Tuftex and Coretec brands, Mullican, The Dixie Group, Stanton, Engineered Floors, American OEM, Invista, Card-Monroe, Cobble Tufting, Beauflor, Happy Feet, Southwind and Torlys-but there were also scores of foreign producers, and unlike at Surfaces, they weren’t predominantly from China either. Most of the U.S. producers at Domotex also attended Surfaces, where new products for the year were introduced (see our March issue for full coverage of new products).

About 45% of the exhibitors at Domotex USA were international, coming from over 25 countries. Among them were hardwood producers from Malaysia, Germany and Italy-and this group was one of the most optimistic at the show, sensing opportunities in the massive American market. Some, like Italy’s Original Parquet, are drawn by demand for differentiated looks, and its booth struck a refined tone, with dramatic hardwoods framed and hung like artwork. Others, like Forestry Timber, a Malaysian firm that produces large volumes of engineered hardwood, are looking for distributors for private-label programs. The firm, which uses cores made of hevea for its products, offers about 30 species, but 95% of its volume comes from white oak sourced from France and Germany and manufactured in Indonesia.

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) had a booth in the midst of the hardwood exhibitors, and it reported that many of the foreign producers were enthusiastic about the organization, including its NWFA Expo next month in Texas and its education programs.

Many of the U.S. exhibitors reported that not enough of the visitors to their booths were buyers from retail stores; many were suppliers looking for new partners-like Interprint, a film printing firm based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts looking for partnerships with vertically integrated manufacturers-while others were part of the Dalton, Georgia flooring community, drawn by curiosity and proximity.

One highlight of the show was its handmade rug pavilion, which offered an eye-opening range of designs, both modern and classic-and, often, a combination of both. In that pavilion was the most expensive floorcovering at the show, a 9’x12’ hand-knotted silk rug called Sinnah, with 1,100 knots per inch, showcased by Carpets-de-Orient, an Indian rug producer. The rug, stunning in both its sumptuous colorway and its intricate small-scale motifs in the border and field, wholesales for $30,000-and it really looks like it’s worth every penny.

Invista, the fiber firm best known for its Stainmaster nylon 6,6 brand, had a booth at the show to introduce its latest fiber development, a retooling of its Antron Lumena commercial nylon 6,6 fiber into Antron Lumena DNA. The fiber, which already features a cationic treatment for stain resistance, replaces a topical anti-soil treatment with a new chemistry that is built into the fiber. Going forward, all Antron Lumena will be Lumena DNA.

Adore Floors, which doesn’t exhibit at Surfaces itself, though it uses the venue to meet with customers and show them product privately, came to Domotex USA because it’s a member of the larger Domotex family of shows, giving the firm a chance to engage with all of its international partners, suppliers and customers. Adore, which produces resilient flooring in South Korea and more recently through partnerships in China, has been doing business in the U.S. since 1997, and its U.S. headquarters are in Farmingdale, New York. Its flagship product is a dryback LVT originally targeting the healthcare sector, and over the years the firm has expanded into the residential market and added heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet goods, SPC and WPC.

The firm notes that WPC is in higher demand in Europe, while the momentum in the U.S. market is for SPC. The firm’s Regent line of SPC has a PVC cap, and it comes in a good, better, best offering of Monarch, Monarch X and Sovereign, respectively. What’s notable about Adore’s SPC is its IIC ratings of 63 and Delta IIC ratings of 24, which is higher than most of the products on the market. Later this year, the firm will introduce tile looks in SPC, including distressed concrete.

Also at the show was Faus, which was the gold standard for laminate flooring in the early years of this century, best known for its pioneering work in embossed-in-register technology and for its design capabilities. The firm went as far as building a production facility in Calhoun, Georgia, but the commoditization of the category eventually led to the shuttering of the facility.

The firm, which produces its laminates in Valencia, Spain, is now building its U.S. business again-driven by a renewed emphasis on value-added laminates. Part of the firm’s mission at Domotex USA was to find distribution partners for its higher-end line. On display were wood looks as well as tile and stone designs. On the floor were wood-look planks in a chevron design, and it’s worth noting that the edges of the boards were virtually invisible.

Leap Tools, based in Toronto, Canada, showcased RoomVo, augmented reality technology designed to view flooring in any space. The technology was first introduced in May 2017, after five years of development, and it enables users to upload images on the spot, though there’s also a mix of sample images to choose from. RoomVo integrates with the client’s flooring website, as opposed to functioning as a standalone app-and a key benefit is that users will always have the latest version of the tool, eliminating the need for time-consuming updates. The firm works with retailers, distributors and manufacturers such as Mohawk, Engineered Floors and MS International.

Milliken chose to reveal its new collections at Domotex USA rather than Surfaces this year, mostly due to proximity to its Spartanburg, South Carolina headquarters. New carpet products unveiled at the show included Third Dimension, a residential broadloom collection that is highly textured, using Stainmaster nylon 6,6.

Bridging the gap between residential and commercial is its new LVT collection, Pike, designed to perform across a range of applications. Pike is a wood-look tile that is smooth in texture, and it comes in four colors. It coordinates with both carpet tile and broadloom offerings, and products can be matched using Milliken’s Color Reference system.

Card-Monroe showcased its groundbreaking technology, Tailored Loop. The samples shown were all done using 1/10th gauge to create intricate patterns that were not possible prior to the invention of the new technology, which enables control of each individual loop, including whether or not to even place a stitch. Dimensionality that could previously only be conferred through cut and loop is now attainable in all-loop constructions, allowing for the development of a huge range of new designs, including woven looks, with a level of precision unprecedented in tufting equipment.

Also, ColorPoint-the hugely popular Card-Monroe machine that is behind the most expressive tufted carpet designs-can be applied to the Tailored Loop technology, offering even more design and color possibilities. Having just shipped its first machine the week of Domotex USA, the company anticipates high demand for the technology.

EDUCATION PROGRAMS
The education schedule covered a lot of territory. The Growth Sessions focused on leveraging digital technology and marketing strategies to help flooring companies build their businesses. And held at the Plaza in the center of the show, the Insider Talks were 30-minute breakouts on topics such as brand building, installer recruitment and retainment, moisture meters, design trends, picking the right digital agency, and profiting through the professional designer and real estate markets. The Industry Insight Sessions were the longer sessions that took attendees deeper into specific topics like color trends and the labor force shortage.

One of the Insider Talks was a panel led by Kemp Harr, publisher of Floor Focus, on the state of the industry, with Dan Frierson from The Dixie Group, Shaw’s Tim Baucom and Kirk Roberts from Bona. The discussion included analysis of the growth rates of the different flooring categories, challenges to growth, the performance of the various channels and the outlook for business this year.

On the second day of the show, the Plaza hosted the delivery of a ceremonial oversized check for $10,000, representing Domotex’s contribution to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation. The check was presented by Andreas Gruchow, a member of the managing board of Deutsche Messe.

The NWFA Session: Color Trends in Hardwood Floors reviewed historic hardwood flooring trends and provided a peek into growing trends and processes. Parquet patterns are making a comeback, and mixed mediums, like wood mixed with metal, are also trending, but color was the main focus. A range of palettes were introduced that broke down hardwood trends based on specific looks. For example, Nordic Shimmer is a Scandinavian-inspired look that makes use of colors found in nature such as lake sand and pebbles. Touch of Grace is exactly as the name implies-elegant, classic and timeless. This is a palette that might see the use of parquet floors, ornate moldings and pops of gold or brass metals throughout the home.

The State of the Floor Covering Industry Labor Force session presented the results from research conducted by The Blackstone Group out of Chicago. The Floor Covering Leadership Council commissioned the independent research firm in January 2018 to determine the impact of the lack of installation professionals in the flooring industry. The presentation provided in-depth data on the factors associated with the shortages, barriers related to the recruitment of labor, an analysis of the gaps in the labor force and the financial impact of the labor shortage.

GOING FORWARD
Everyone at Domotex USA seemed to agree that the location of the show could not have been better. Georgia is home to the bulk of not just domestic carpet production but all flooring production, and that’s great not just for plant tours but also for individual meetings tacked on before or after the show. Also, it’s worth noting that the Atlanta airport, which is the busiest passenger airport in the world (handling over 107 million passengers a year), makes Domotex USA easily accessible from every corner of the nation and the globe.

Next year’s Domotex USA will again be held at the same venue, and this time around, it will run from February 5 to February 7, which is one week after next year’s Surfaces show in Las Vegas.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus